The Ethics of Facing Western Notions in Graham Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case
Taking as a basis Søren Kierkegaard’s narrative strategy of attack and defence, this paper will analyse the representation of western civilization in connection with the worldview of the native people living in a leper colony in Belgian Congo in Graham Greene’s novel A Burnt-Out Case. I will examine concretely the way in which Greene attacks in the novel the hegemonic structure of the European colonizers, which both ignores and imposes itself on the African native society, considering it a no-structure. Additionally, I will study the cases of the priests in the leper colony and of doctor Colin, characters that, being on the frontier between both value systems, become cultural translators and thus make communication possible. These characters acknowledge that the native way of life is as legitimate as the European and represent the possibility of an empathic side of western civilization. In contrast with the attack mentioned above, with the priests and Dr Colin Greene defends the European community living in the area. Through the use of the narrative strategy of attack and defence, therefore, contradictory messages are inserted in the text so that the readers take an active role solving the paradoxes they find in their reading. Finally, I will focus on the main protagonist, Querry, whose internal journey starts with his contact with Deo Gratias, a member of the native society, and whose spiritual evolution throughout the novel cannot be explained without his experience with the native culture.